Reconsidering Representation:

Why cisgendered actors should stay out of transgender roles

Graphic by Frances Stott

Representation of transgender people, especially in a positive light, has only recently made it onto the big screen, so it would make sense for transgender characters in the media to played by trans actors. Unfortunately, the vast majority are normally played by cisgendered actors. Trans people get so little representation as it is; cisgender actors should not being playing the roles of transgender people.

According to GLAAD, a media-monitoring organization for LGBTQ+ representation, there wasn’t a single transgender character out of 110 films released by major studio films in 2018 and 2019. With 0.6% of Americans being transgender, according to the Williams Institute, major studios should put more effort into including trans characters portrayed by trans actors.

As it is, cisgendered actors already get more opportunities in the entertainment industry for being less polarizing public figures than their marginalized counterparts. Although gender identity shouldn’t be a controversial topic, casting directors are more likely to choose cis actors so as to not offend close-minded viewers.

Cis actors also should not play trans actors because they perpetrate stereotypes. Casting trans actors in trans roles would allow them to input personal experience into their acting, and bring emotional authenticity to the character.

In July of 2020, Halle Berry received backlash for taking on the role of a transgender man. She quickly let go of the part because she learned that trans people do not want a cis woman playing a trans man. This should become the norm: cis actors should turn down roles if they are asked to portray trans characters.

Studio executives and casting directors must learn to be more inclusive in the media, as there is a severe lack of trans representation.

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